Ireland Hosts Successful Camp with FC Barcelona


Barcelona visit Croke Park


After a hectic weekend of matches, training and meetings, the IOHA can now take a breather for a moment and look back before racing forward. This weekend saw the Irish men’s team host a joint training camp with FC Barcelona in our new training centre in Phibblestown. Taking part in additional friendly fixtures were Dublin International, Deva Handball, Salford HC and London GD.

Barcelona Stretching in Raw Gym

Head Coach, Toni Gerona had the difficult task of coaching both Barcelona B and and the Irish team for the camp, with only regular doses of strong coffee and his unquenchable appetite for work keeping him going! The camp hosting was facilitated by the strong Irish link via Toni and also Manager of the handball section, Mr. Xavier O’Callaghan. Our thanks to them both.

The training camp was an ideal opportunity for Toni to look at some new players and combinations against some very tough opponents. New players included young centre Mark Harrison (Cumbria, UK), pivot Magnus Sean Clarke (Dublin International) and our first Green Giant , Brendán Ó’Rian.

Ireland secured two wins from four over the weekend defeating a spirited Deva team on Thursday in DCU by 36 goals to 12. The match included 11 goals for Barcelona player Kári and 10 for Irish captain Alan O’Brien. It was great to see Alan in full swing following a long recovery from a knee injury.

Brendán Ó'Rian - A Natural and Ireland's first Green Giant

Without the overseas players, the game saw a historic debut for  the first Green Giant of the IOHA’s program: Brendán Ó’Rian and the basketball player took to the sport like a duck to water. Mark Harrison also showed that a bright future lies ahead for the hard working young man from Northumbria University.

Deva, which is the ancient Roman name for Chester, were excellent in their game play and they will become stronger as the team matures. They scored some great goals over the weekend, including 5 crackers against FC Barcelona. Liam O’Doherty, caught some great images of the game between Ireland and Deva here:

Ireland didn’t play on Friday as they trained with Barcelona and their overseas players arrived. Deva got in some more experience and match practice against the Irish league and cup holders, Dublin International and Barcelona. Dublin International also took to the court in a 30 minute match against the Catalan team. Barcelona’s class showed in both games, but both Dublin International and Deva had moments to be proud of; hat tricks for Ben Tyler from Deva and Marian Celko of Dublin International. Adria Figueres stood out in both games for Barcelona.

On Saturday the match schedule was even more intense with English league champions Salford facing Ireland. The Salford team are coached by former GB Assistant Coach Bill Baillie and included a number of GB Olympians such as Ciaran Williams. The game was always going to be tough for the Irish team but it didn’t get any easier when Steffan Meyer saw red for repeatedly over zealous defence. Kári also missed out due to illness.

The game was attended by the Irish Minister for Sport, Mr. Leo Varadkar. Thank you Minister for your support! It gave our guys a great lift:

Minister Varadkar shows his height for handball!


Take nothing away from Salford, some well rehearsed plays and solid skills saw them home to a thoroughly deserved victory 18-28. Mark Hawkins was in great from with 6 goals for the English champions.  Magnus Sean Clarke had his first run out for the Irish team but couldn’t help them to narrow the gap as the damage had already been done. Best of luck to Salford for the coming season.

The same day saw Dublin International take on Deva, and it was a powerful performance from the Dublin team that saw them win 33-17. It was a great experience for the Deva team as Tomas Matinonis gave a master class in pivot play, scoring 8 goals. Ben Tyler was the danger man for Deva again with 5 goals.

The relentless match schedule saw FC Barcelona take on a depleted London GD side, led by Barca alumnus, Jordi Ferrer Torras.  The diminutive Victor Saez was rampant scoring 8 goals for Toni Gerona’s side. The final score was 46-7 to Barcelona, an indicator of the cost of mistakes against top opposition. The English cup champions head to Europe in the coming weeks and they will have serious work to do if they are going to compete.

The next game was a clash of the champions of the English and Irish leagues as Dublin International faced Salford. It was always going to be a hotly contested battle, despite being a friendly and both teams fought for every ball. In the end it was the English team who came out on top, winning 33-29 in a tight game. Some intricate finishing from DI’s Marian Celko saw him grab 6 more goals, while Stuart Latchford bagged 8 for Salford.

Next up was Ireland v Barcelona and Toni Gerona delegate responsibility for the Barcelona team to his assistant coach, Pep. The game was an excellent measuring stick for Ireland and will prepare them for the tough games they face against Estonia and Belgium in the forthcoming Euros. Kári did not have to choose sides for this one as he still hadn’t recovered in time. Toni Gerona had spoken to the Irish team following their disappointing performance against Salford, and the message had clearly been received as they put in a solid performance.

Friends at the Final Whistle

The result was never going to be in doubt for Barcelona, as they won 45 -15 in the end, but the Irish team showed some great fluidity in their play and an added aggression in their defence. Inspired by his family watching on, Steffan Craig Meyer was at the heart of everything good for Ireland but the goal of the day was scored by Oisín Ó’Brannigáin:

Sunday morning saw an early start for Ireland and London GD, with both teams keen to finish on a high. Ireland came out on top 29-25 in the end in a hard earned victory. Steffan Meyer scored an incredible 16 goals for the Irish to ensure the win. It was great to finish with the win, but there is more work to do ahead of the trip to Estonia in October. The Irish team can be very proud of their progress to this point – more fluid in attack, stronger defence and better team play. We can’t forget to mention wily old fox Jordi Ferrer Torras who sneaked in 6 goals for London GD 🙂

The final game of the weekend was a tough battle for Barcelona with Salford with the English champions posing the biggest threat of the weekend. They scored 24- but Barcelona were relentless, scoring 50 of their own. Adria scored 12 for the Catalans but their performance was always a team one.

A big thank you from the IOHA to all the teams who took part, all the referees, the delegates, the Phibblestown staff and the IOHA volunteers. The games were well attended so thank you to the fans!

A special mention for Lisa Germaine, Saoirse Butler, Jamie Warburton, Megan Caulfield, Sarah Moloney, Karen Moloney, Stephen Moloney, Niamh Brien, Derek Ryan and Killian Morris for doing all the glamorous jobs 😉 !

And finally, a big thank you to the Irish men’s team for staying behind to clean the floor – it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it 🙂

Thank you everyone!

Ní bua gan dua